Kid Lit Author and Advocate

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April showers bring…free books! My newest picture book, Dust Fairy Tales: Absolutely Aggie is free on Kindle until April 12.

It’s the story of a dusty little fairy struggling to fit in. She doesn’t have the “perfect” hair, she’s too loud, and her clothes are a mess. Just when she thinks all is lost, Aggie discovers a way to truly shine. Oh, did I mention she plays the bagpipes?!

happy
This adorable book makes a unique, sugar-free, Easter gift. Hop over to Amazon, and get a copy for each of your devices.
If you enjoy the story, please take a moment to leave a short review or rating on Amazon. Thank you!

Here’s a short preview trailer:



I would like to reach out to kid lit authors and book bloggers to get quality books into the hands of deserving kids.

Featured Image -- 1290

Throughout the month of March, I am collecting new children’s books to benefit children of incarcerated parents. Authors, I hope you will consider donating signed copies of your books. Book bloggers, please help us by sharing this information with your readers.

I am a children’s author, teacher, and mom who is passionate about children’s literacy and the power of children’s books. When I learned nearly 2/3 of children, living in poverty, DO NOT own books, I was moved to act. I founded the literacy initiative, Picture Book Pass it On, to raise awareness for literacy issues and get books to kids in need.

Three years ago, the Picture Book Pass it On initiative grew to include a month-long book drive called MARCHing Books to Kids.

Throughout the month of March, MARCHing Books to Kids collects books (ages birth-17 years) for the VNS of Iowa Storybook Project. https://www.vnsia.org/mothers-children-families/volunteer-to-help-children/

VNS of Iowa volunteers travel to The Iowa Correctional Institution, in Mitchellville, once a month. With the aid of volunteers, mothers select one book per child to read via a digital voice recorder.  The audio CD and book are mailed to the child to keep. The mission is to strengthen the bond between parent and child, during incarceration, while promoting reading and literacy.

Since 2015, MARCHing Books to Kids has collected more than 1,500 books.                               Over the years, the drive has received signed donations from notable children’s authors such as    Robert Munsch (Love You Forever) and Nick Bruel (Bad Kitty series). Last year, more than 30 children’s authors donated signed copies of their books. Owning a book, let alone a book signed by the author, is a joy most of these children have never experienced.

girl wagon

I believe that every child’s Bill of Rights should be indelibly inked with the right to have books read to him/her and to own their very own books.  Many of us take for granted the sacred ritual of cracking open a book and cuddling together while the words and pictures collectively take us away.  You can probably recall having been read to by your parents or caregivers.  You likely hold a special book, from your childhood, close to your heart.  And, until now, you’ve probably not given much thought to how profound that experience can be…

Imagine, never having that.

To participate in MARCHing Books to Kids, please follow the 3 calls to action:

#1 Pledge to donate a new book/s to Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa, Storybook Project.  Authors are invited to sign their books.

When packing your book/s, please include a note stating that your book is part of the MARCHing Books to Kids initiative. Books may be mailed to:

VNS of Iowa, Storybook Project

c/o Tabby Kuehl

1111 9th Street

Suite 320

Des Moines, Iowa 50314

#2 Post your pledge on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PBPiO .  Share it on your blog and on social media.  Please include our badge and tags #PBPiO and #MARCHingBookstoKids

#3 Pass it on.  When you post about your pledge, challenge one or more friends to join your #MARCHingBookstoKids giving chain.  Encourage them to take the pledge and keep passing it on…

I appreciate your help spreading the word. Thank you for making the difference in the lives of children and families in need.

pbpio-and-marching-2017


I recently received this request, and I thought I would pass it along:
 
“I am the Associate Producer for Stephen Folker Films, an indie film company in Davenport, Iowa. We are in need of several books for a low budget feature film titled, Overdue. The movie, Overdue, is about a library janitor that goes after people that have overdue books in order to win the heart of the library director. It is a comedy slasher. The books will be seen in the background on the carts, in the book drop box, the characters homes, etc.”
 
If you’d like to see our past work you can visit the website http://www.stephenfolkerfilms.com
 
Would you or anyone you know be interested in having their book in a movie?
 
Please send your book(s) to:
 
Kristina Smith
PO. Box 281, 226 Main
Alburnett, IA 52202
 
Please include a letter stating that you give permission to Stephen Folker, Davenport, IA, and Stephen Folker Films to show your book (specify the titles) on screen in the feature film tilted, Overdue. And that you understand that you will not be paid.
 
We will be able to add the authors name in the closing credits under the “Thank You’s.” I will let you know as soon as the website and Facebook page are live and you can follow the progress of the film.
 
We will need some books by August 18 and the bulk of them by October 10th.
We appreciate your support!
 
Kristina Baker Smith Associate Producer, Stephen Folker Films

Happy summer, everyone. I have been taking a break from writing to spend time with my son; however, I wanted to take a moment to spread the word about a new kid lit site, Storytime Pup. You can also find Storytime Pup on Facebook, Twitter and You Tube.

In addition to their kid-friendly web site, Storytime Pup hosts a You Tube channel featuring children’s books.

I was delighted to have my book, The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tale, featured last week https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rB_XIeuFdFg/

Storytime Pup was created by Bill McManus. Bill lives in upstate NY with his wife Diane and his 3 kids: Ryan, Colin and Shannon. He is the creator of Storytime Pup.  He is also an author, entrepreneur, inventor and actor. He enjoys entertaining and writing books for children because their joy makes him happy.

If you are a published children’s author (traditional or indie), I encourage you to contact Storytime Pup for submission information. There is no charge for having your book/s featured on the site.

I wish you all a wonderful summer!

scooter

 

 

 


I posted this many moons ago, but I thought it was worth repeating…

I am a writer.  I have met a lot of writers.  Most of us are very hard on ourselves.  Working in solitude affords us the time to self-reflect, which often leads to self-loathing.

stick

For many of us, our goals start small…finish a novel, get a book published, get a review, etc.  Unfortunately, rather than savoring the small fruits of our labor, we are compelled to reach for the next branch.  The following New York Times article is a fitting reminder that those clusters of fruit, we take for granted, are a delicacy some will never taste.

As the Eagles proclaimed, “…Now it seems to me, some fine things
Have been laid upon your table
But you only want the ones that you can’t get
Desperado…”

Don’t quit your day dream.  Pull up a chair, heap your plate full, and enjoy your fruit-no matter how small.

Thanksgiving Weekend Blues

RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — THANKSGIVING weekend in 1990, I spent two hours at the loneliest place in the world for an obscure novelist — the book-signing table at a Waldenbooks in a suburban New Jersey mall.

I sat at the table smiling like a game show host. Store patrons scurried past me, doing all they could to avoid eye contact. I kept smiling. I straightened out my pile of free bookmarks for the umpteenth time, though so far none had been taken. I played with my pen. Authors at signings like this get good at playing with their pens. I pushed it to and fro. I curled my upper lip around the pen and made it into a makeshift mustache. I clipped it to my lower lip, pinching said lip in an almost masochistic way, and was able to click the pen open by moving my jaw and pressing it against my nose. You can’t teach that skill, by the way. Practice. At one point, I took out a second pen, rolled up a spitball, and then let the two pens play hockey against each other. The Rollerball beat the Sharpie in overtime.

During the first hour of my signing, a grand total of four people approached me. Two asked me where the bathroom was. The third explained his conspiracy theory linking the J.F.K. assassination with the decision by General Mills to add Crunch Berries to Cap’n Crunch breakfast cereal. The fourth asked me if we had a copy of the new Stephen King.

I kept smiling. Four copies of my brand-spanking-new first novel — Waldenbooks knew not to order too many — stood limply on the shelf behind me. I missed the Barcalounger in my den. I longed for home and hearth, for stuffing my face with leftover turkey, for half-watching football games in which I had no rooting interest. Instead I slow-baked under the fluorescent Waldenbooks lights, the Early Hipster booksellers glaring at me as though I was some kind of pedantic squatter. I had become the literary equivalent of a poster child — “you could buy his book or you could turn the page …”

Time didn’t just pass slowly. It seemed to be moonwalking backward.

Then, with maybe 15 minutes left before I could scrape up the scraps of my dignity and head home, an old man shuffled toward me. He wiped his nose with what I hoped was a beige hankie. His eyes were runny. Odds were this was going to be a where’s-the-bathroom question, but this guy had all the makings of another conspiracy theorist.

The old man’s gaze drifted over my shoulder. “What’s that like?”

“Excuse me?”

“That’s your novel, right?”

He gestured at the four books on the shelf behind me.

“Right,” I said.

He shook his head in awe. “That’s my dream, man. Seeing my book on a shelf in a bookstore.” He lowered his gaze and met my eye. “So what’s that like?”

I paused, letting the question sink in, but before I could reply, the old man lifted his eyes back to the bookshelf, smiled, and shook his head again. “Lucky,” he said, before turning and walking away.

He didn’t buy a book. He didn’t have to.


April is overflowing with literacy-related events. Rhyming Picture Book Month, National Library Month, and DEAR.

Beloved children’s author, Beverly Cleary is 100 years young today!
Cleary wrote about D.E.A.R. in her book, Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Since then, “Drop Everything and Read” programs have been held nationwide on April 12th in honor of Mrs. Cleary’s birthday. Learn more about Cleary and DEAR at http://dropeverythingandread.com/

I’m celebrating DEAR and the personal influence Cleary has had on me by offering my free children’s ebook.

Here are some fun facts about this American treasure (borrowed in part from mental_floss):

SHE’S A CAT LOVER.

I know many of us can relate to this one-

Cleary’s owned several pet cats over the years, one of whom used to resent having to compete with her typewriter for attention and would sit on the keys in protest.

SHE KNOWS KIDS AIN’T PERFECT.

and this one-

Cleary was annoyed with the books in her childhood, “…because children always learned to be ‘better’ children and, in my experience, they didn’t. They just grew, and so I started Ramona … and she has never reformed. [She’s] really not a naughty child, in spite of the title Ramona the Pest. Her intentions are good, but she has a lot of imagination, and things sometimes don’t turn out the way she expected.”

SHE’S ALWAYS SYMPATHIZED WITH STRUGGLING READERS.

Getting put into the lowest reading circle in first grade almost made her resent books. Phonic lists were a drag and being force-fed Dick & Jane-style narratives was flat-out excruciating. “[We] wanted action. We wanted a story,” she lamented in her autobiography. It was an experience Cleary never forgot. Since then, she claims to have always kept children who might be undergoing similar trials in mind while writing.

SHE’S NOT RAMONA THE PEST. 

Although Ramona and many of her beloved books are about sibling rivalry and relationships, she grew up as an only child.

I grew up loving her books (although I think I referred to her as Beverly Clear-ly until early adulthood).

What’s your favorite Beverly Cleary book or fact?


April is Rhyming Picture Book Month, so I thought I’d celebrate by giving away my newest picture book, Dust Fairy Tales: Absolutely Aggie.

Download the ebook for FREE, this week, on Amazon. Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0155J4Q7I/

I just discovered that UK Amazon customers are eligible for the free offer as well.

Happy Reading!

 

aggie_cover_front_r-1

Here are some other literacy celebrations going on this month:

National Poetry Month

This April marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, which was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Over the years, National Poetry Month has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.

National Library Week  April 10-16, 2016

http://www.ala.org/nlw

First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April. It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support.

Children’s Day/Book Day – El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Día) April 30, 2016

http://dia.ala.org

Children’s Day/Book Day, also known as El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Día), is a celebration of children, families, and reading and held annually on April 30. The celebration emphasizes the importance of advocating literacy for every child regardless of linguistic and cultural background.


I posted this piece last fall. But, with spring in the air, invitations to author fairs are beginning to pop up. So, I thought it was worth revisiting, with one slight change to the original…

With warmer weather coming, I WILL have to shave my legs for this!

The term, “fair” brings to mind celebrations, hustle and bustle, excitement, and fun (sometimes creepy clowns are involved).

old clown

For authors, a fair is the opportunity to mix and mingle with fellow writers, meet book lovers, and get your book into the hands of new readers.

fly

In our mid-western city, author fairs are few and far between. So, when I saw the opportunity to participate in one, I jumped at the chance.

rope

Ticket in hand, I began preparing for the big day. Coffee in hand, I tackled my to-do list. My must-have list includes: my books, book stands, business cards, a credit card reader, pens, a table cloth, and some cash to make change.

cat

My want-to-have list is much longer and mostly unnecessary (except, I am a children’s book author, so a gal’s gotta have something for the kiddos). This list includes freebies like: bookmarks, coloring sheets, and candy. Since I write books about fairies, I figured I’d throw in some plastic fairy bracelets, mini fairy dolls, and some bling for my table top (thank you Dollar Store).

yes free

And while I’m at it, why not order a 3 foot tall stand-up display of my main character?

big aggie

The big day finally arrived. I packed up my gear and headed to the fair. After several trips to the car and a lot of zhuzh-ing, I was ready. I anxiously waited for the crowd to file in…and waited…and waited.

table

The author fair got much less traffic than I expected. I sold a whopping total of 4 books that day. Although I met some really great people, I was feeling pretty defeated.  But, just as I was getting ready to pack it in, I ran into this guy.

bagpipe dude

Some would call this synchronicity. I am at a book fair, selling copies of my book featuring a bagpipe-playing dust fairy, and this guy is out in front of the venue playing the bagpipes. He was kind enough to pose for a picture, and he even bought a copy of my book.

I may have come away from this less-than-fair author fair only 4 books lighter, but this parting encounter brought the experience back into perspective. This man’s joy comes from sharing his music with others. I don’t imagine he measures his success in album sales.

I write fun books for kids. People like my books, and that brings me joy. Selling books or not selling books should not get in the way of that.

185050413

And on a lighter note-It’s fall in Iowa, so I did NOT shave my legs for this!

legs

You are welcome to share or re-blog any of my posts. I enjoy getting to know you, so please feel free to leave a comment. Thank you.


As a self-published author, I have to find the humor in my daily existence, or I would go insane. Each morning, I sit down and commence work on any number of projects, in various stages of development. As my eyes drag my brain from one work pile to the next, I try to determine which hamster wheel I’ll climb into today. As with most things in life, the squeaky wheel gets the grease (in my case, elbow grease). Most recently, this hamster has been doing laps on the book promotion wheel. And, I can tell you, promoting a book is no walk in the park.

hamster

I released my first children’s picture book in 2014 and my second in 2015. With both books, I hopped on my wheel and convinced several stores to host signing events, and I scampered my way onto the shelves of local bookstores and libraries. Since then, I’ve sold around a thousand copies. I am self-published, so that means I have to hustle and work for every single book I sell. I am up for the challenge, and I actually enjoy cultivating these local connections.

cog

It’s when I venture out into the online world that I feel the pressure of the rat race. It’s easy to get caught up in Amazon rankings, Goodreads reviews, Twitter, Facebook, and the like. Ironically, I find myself becoming the squeaky wheel, vying to be greased, “Buy my book. Review my book. Get my book for free.”

openreg

Despite my best efforts, my online sales are slow moving (under 150 books sold). But, I lick my paws and hop on the wheel for the next go ‘round. And, a little elbow grease never hurts.

Don’t be shy, leave a reply. There’s plenty of room on this wheel. How’s your publishing journey rolling?

Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.


The traditional road to publishing can be long and winding. Do it yourself, and you’d better have a good pair of shoes.

tatoo

I often share stories of my self-publishing journey; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

old clown

The ugly moments came mostly from my own misconceptions about the process.

Myth #1 Build It and They Will Come…

Once you publish your book, it will fly off the shelves!

fly

One of the biggest misconceptions I had when starting out was that if I could just get my book published, the hard work would be over. Little did I know it had just begun!

I wanted to try something different in this post. I am hoping you will join me to build an unofficial list of self-publishing myths or things you’ve learned along the way that may be helpful to others. Please feel free to post your thoughts in the comments.

 

 


Traveling the indie publishing road can be a daunting and lonely journey. For the novice, there are plenty of opportunities to take a wrong turn, stumble, or lose sight of your destination. The entire experience practically begs you to throw yourself an occasional Pity Party, or two, or three.

Birthday boy having a tantrum

I have hosted some killer woe-is-me celebrations. Instead of a hangover, these blow outs always leave me in a funk. My last, and most impressive, fete was a month-long celebration after the rush of my book launch abruptly came to a halt. I won’t liken it to post-par tum depression (not out loud anyway), but it was pretty miserable.

Sad Pink stick figure sitting on a white chair

Everything leading up to the launch of my book was exhilarating. I had the launch party to plan, books to order, swag to buy. The launch party was a huge success. I sold hundreds of books that month and scheduled a handful of author visits. I received scads of 5-star reviews, and my book was featured on a few blogs. People were buzzing about my book, and I was on cloud nine. Then…crickets. Nothing happened. I went from living and breathing my book to staring at a pile of them. Cue the Pity-Party music and back-up dancers.

Revival

Gloom and Doom became my BFF’s. I beat myself up for not selling more books. I couldn’t think of anything to write. And, to make matters worse, I had spent a lot of money on self-publishing a book I was sure would never again see the light of day.

185050413

Since I couldn’t write, I read. I went to the library. I started reading picture books again. I found solace in the kid lit community. I read blog posts and articles, tweets, and memes.

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

One of the articles I stumbled upon helped me kick those heifers, Gloom and Doom, to the curb.Tah-tah ladies.

sci fi

The author’s message helped me alter how I perceive my success and allow myself to appreciate the little moments as much as the big ones. That paradigm shift removed a huge roadblock in my writing career-a roadblock constructed by me.

Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.

My Pity-Parties are now (mostly) Pinch-Me Parties.

pinch

Instead of complaining that only 5 people showed up at my Barnes and Noble author event, I pinch myself. I look around and think, “OMG! My book is on the shelf at Barnes and Noble!” Rather than beating myself up that my online sales are not in the thousands, I take pride knowing a book I wrote is in the hands of hundreds of people around the world.

Not that I’m a masochist, but I kind of like this whole pinching thing. It seems the more I do it, the more “pinch able” moments come my way. My books are on the shelves of several book stores and libraries (pinch). I’ve been interviewed by our local TV and newspaper (pinch, pinch). I was a guest on Matthew Winner’s “Let’s Get Busy Podcast” (turbo-pinch, he typically interviews NY Times Bestselling authors).  And I was one of KidLitTV’s Featured Members. The Horn Book Magazine reviewed a collection of indie books for the first time in the history of the magazine, and my book was included (bad pinch on that one-Roger Sutton is not a fairy fan). School children in the UK chose to dress up as Dust Fairies (complete with matching dust bunny dolls) for World Book Day (pinch). My book has been a #1 Kindle on Amazon (pinch). I started a successful literacy initiative, #PBPiO #MARCHingBookstoKids and we’ve collected more than 350 books for children of incarcerated parents (pinch).

But, the best “pinches” by far, are all of the incredibly kind, gifted, generous people I have met on this journey. Thanks for your inspiration, humor, and support.

I love hearing from you. Tell me your best pity or pinch party story!

Thank you written in hands


We know what happens “If you Give a Mouse a Cookie”…but what happens when you give a mom a blog?

If you give a mom a blog, she’s going to sit for hours, staring at a blinking cursor.

She’ll probably realize that she needs some help.

Then, she’ll venture out into cyberspace looking for advice.

When she looks for advice, she’ll notice that there are some really cool pins on Pinterest…

3 hours later, she’ll remember that she was supposed to be looking for advice on starting a blog.

When she remembers that she was supposed to be looking for advice, she’ll realize that 9:00 am has become 2:30 pm, and it’s time to pick up her son from school.

When she looks in the mirror, she might notice that she’s still in her PJ’s and hasn’t bathed…again.

Which means, she’ll need a quick change, a spray of perfume, and a Diet Pepsi for the road.

And chances are, as she passes by the computer, she’ll notice, from the corner of her eye, the blinking cursor.

When I began the journey to self-publish my own children’s picture book, I had no intention of starting a blog.  But, start one, I did.  My foray into blogging and social media has introduced me to a wonderful community of like-minded Indie authors. I am grateful for their advice and support, especially when the cursor is blinking, and we’re out of cookies.

How did your blogging journey begin? How’s it going?


I posted this piece a few months ago…

Writing is a solitary vocation. I spend a lot of time alone, pondering and reflecting, constructing and connecting. Most recently I connected my life, as a writer, to a well-known poem by Robert Fulghum. http://www.robertfulghum.com/ In the poem, Fulghum reflects on his days in kindergarten and how those lessons prepared him for life.

kindergarten

As I read his words, I began to ponder how becoming an author has enriched my life. I may not have learned “All I really need to know”, but I am constructing my journey one keystroke and lesson at a time. Here’s what I know…

All I really need to know…I learned writing kids’ Books

Share everything-

Give back to your fellow writers. Share articles and resources. Share your failures; they matter too. Lift someone up; show him the way. Give your books away to kids in need. Give back to your community.

Play fair-

I have dues to pay, like everyone else. There are no short-cuts or secret formulas to getting your books published or noticed.

Don’t hit people-

over the head with book promotions. It’s a fine line we walk when we promote our books. When in doubt, less is ALWAYS more!

Put things back where you found them-

Being an organized writer leads to being a productive writer (took me a long time to accept this one). This rule also applies to cats sleeping on your lap while you write. If you must disturb them, return them to your lap immediately.

Clean up your own mess-

I am a better writer when I can see the top of my work space (fought this one for years). Cats sitting on your work space are exempt.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours-

Whenever you quote or reference someone else or his/her work, give him/her proper credit.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody-

For me, this pertains to my husband. He is often on the receiving end of my writer’s block crankiness and endures my need for isolation when the block gives way.

Wash your hands before you eat-

A good practice on those rare occasions when I pry myself from my WIP to eat.

Flush-

Sometimes I have to let go of an idea that is not working to create space for a new one.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you-

And they make for delicious refreshments at book signing events.

Live a balanced life-learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some-

Okay, I’m still working on that one.

Take a nap every afternoon-

My cats handle this one for me.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together-

I am blessed to go out into the kid lit world, holding hands with some of the best people I know. Winding our way through the streets of the publishing world; we stick together.

Be aware of wonder-

Without wonder, how would we create anything new?

Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup; The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup-they all die. So do we-

The wonderful thing is that, as writers, we can make these moments matter. And what we write can matter to someone in a profound way.

And remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned-the biggest word of all-LOOK-

My greatest joy, as a children’s author, is seeing my words reflected through another person’s eyes. In that book, for those few moments, we look at the world together.

dream

What has your writing journey taught you? I’d love to hear about it. Don’t be shy, leave a reply.


prison

The number of kids with incarcerated parents has increased nearly 80% in the last 20 years, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. More than 2.7 million children have a parent who is incarcerated, and parents of another 10 million children have been incarcerated at some point.  The experience can be profoundly difficult for children, increasing their risk of living in poverty and housing instability, as well as causing emotional trauma, pain, and social stigma. http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/article/reading-inside

But, through programs like the Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa Storybook Project, some of that stress melt away when kids and parents are able to share a special book together. Through an audio-tape reading program wherein imprisoned parents/grandparents read books to their children/grandchildren on tape, family bonds are strengthened and literacy skills improve as parents encourage their children to read with them and in their absence. Read this touching NY Times article to learn about the impact these programs have, from an incarcerated mom’s viewpoint. http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/07/behind-bars-finding-meaning-in-a-book-read-aloud/?emc=eta1/

How can you help?  Donate a book. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3…

Now, through the month of March, Picture Book Pass it On is launching a special initiative called “MARCHing Books to Kids”.

We encourage book lovers to donate a favorite children’s book, and we invite authors and children’s authors to donate signed copies of their books to the Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa, Storybook Project.

The Storybook Project serves children Birth-17 years. They welcome donations of board books, picture books, early readers, graphic novels, chapter books, novels, non-fiction, etc. The sky is the limit!

To participate in MARCHing Books to Kids, please follow the 3 calls to action:

#1 Pledge to donate a new or very gently used children’s book/s to Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa, Storybook Project. Authors are invited to sign their books. Please include a note stating that your book is part of the MARCHing Books to Kids initiative. Books may be mailed to:

VNS of Iowa, Storybook Project

c/o Tabby Kuehl

1111 9th Street

Suite 320

Des Moines, Iowa 50314

#2 Post your pledge on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PBPiO. Share it on your blog and on social media. Please include our badge and ‪#‎PBPiO‬, and #‎MARCHingBookstoKids

PBPiO badge

#3 Pass it on. When you post about your pledge, challenge one or more friends to join your #PBPiO giving chain. Encourage them to take the pledge and keep passing it on…

If distance prohibits your ability to mail books to the Storybook Project, please consider donating books to children in need in your own community. Oh, and be sure to share your giving story on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PBPiO We love to see how books are reaching kids all over the globe. So far, we have people “Passing it On” in the US, the UK, Australia, and Greece!

Thank you for making the difference in the lives of children and families!

 

burn books

 


I wrote this post over a year ago, but it seems as timely as ever…

punch

Authors, indie and otherwise, are some of the most resourceful, tenacious people I know. They are also among the most generous, and kind bunch of folks you’ll ever find. I am one of those people, so why am I so freakin’ mean?

To myself, that is.

cat mean

Brain research tells us that we have anywhere from 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day, and up to 80 percent of those thoughts are negative. Why are our brains such Debbie-Downers? Apparently, they are wired to pay more attention to negative experiences. It’s a self-protective characteristic. We are scanning for threats from when we used to be hunter and gatherers.

hunt brain

Okay, I get that. I understand that it is human nature to focus on the bad stuff. I also get that I can’t really help myself for wondering what Donald Trump is thinking with that hair.

hair

I also get that writers are self-critical beings. We spend a lot of time in our own heads and a lot of time alone. We are our work’s toughest critics.

writer ape

But, can a girl catch a break once in a while? Can I learn to be a little kinder to myself?

I can try…

nice

Donald Trump aside, I’ll leave you with this anecdote about a young woman who woke up one morning and noticed she had only three hairs on her head.

“Hmmmm,” she said, “I think I’ll braid my hair today.” She did, and she had a great day.

The next morning she woke up and saw that only two hairs remained on her head. “Well,” she said, “I’m going to part my hair today.” She did, and she had a really fun day.

The following morning she awoke to only one hair on her head. “Oh,” she said, “I think I’ll wear my hair in a pony-tail today.” She did, and her day was wonderful.

The next morning she awoke to find that she did not have single hair on her head. “Yea!” she said. “I don’t have to fix my hair today!”

bully

A big part of what keeps me sane on the days I’d like to pull my hair out is the company I keep. I am blessed to be a part of this online community of bloggers, authors, and other creative people. Your encouragement and support is ever-present and contagious. Thank you!


I would like to reach out to kid lit authors and book bloggers to get quality books into the hands of deserving kids.

Featured Image -- 1290

Throughout the month of March, I am collecting new children’s books to benefit children of incarcerated parents. Authors, I hope you will consider donating signed copies of your books. Book bloggers, please help us by sharing this information with your readers.

I am a children’s author, teacher, and mom who is passionate about children’s literacy and the power of children’s books. When I learned nearly 2/3 of children, living in poverty, DO NOT own books, I was moved to act. I founded the literacy initiative, Picture Book Pass it On, to raise awareness for literacy issues and get books to kids in need.

Three years ago, the Picture Book Pass it On initiative grew to include a month-long book drive called MARCHing Books to Kids.

Throughout the month of March, MARCHing Books to Kids collects books (ages birth-17 years) for the VNS of Iowa Storybook Project.

VNS of Iowa volunteers travel to The Iowa Correctional Institution, in Mitchellville, once a month. With the aid of volunteers, mothers select one book per child to read via a digital voice recorder.  The audio CD and book are mailed to the child to keep. The mission is to strengthen the bond between parent and child, during incarceration, while promoting reading and literacy.

Since 2015, MARCHing Books to Kids has collected more than 1,500 books.                               Over the years, the drive has received donations from notable children’s authors such as    Robert Munsch (Love You Forever) and Nick Bruel (Bad Kitty series). Last year, more than 30 children’s authors donated signed copies of their books. Owning a book, let alone a book signed by the author, is a joy most of these children have never experienced.

girl wagon

I believe that every child’s Bill of Rights should be indelibly inked with the right to have books read to him/her and to own their very own books.  Many of us take for granted the sacred ritual of cracking open a book and cuddling together while the words and pictures collectively take us away.  You can probably recall having been read to by your parents or caregivers.  You likely hold a special book, from your childhood, close to your heart.  And, until now, you’ve probably not given much thought to how profound that experience can be…Imagine, never having that.

To participate in MARCHing Books to Kids, please follow the 3 calls to action:

#1 Pledge to donate a new book/s to Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa, Storybook Project.  Authors are invited to sign their books.

When packing your book/s, please include a note stating that your book is part of the MARCHing Books to Kids initiative.  Books may be mailed to:

VNS of Iowa, Storybook Project

c/o Tabby Kuehl

1111 9th Street

Suite 320

Des Moines, Iowa 50314

#2 Post your pledge on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PBPiO .  Share it on your blog and on social media.  Please include our badge and tags #PBPiO and #MARCHingBookstoKids

#3 Pass it on.  When you post about your pledge, challenge one or more friends to join your #PBPiO  giving chain.  Encourage them to take the pledge and keep passing it on…

I appreciate your help spreading the word. Thank you for making the difference in the lives of children and families in need.

pbpio-and-marching-2017


I am trying out the new Amazon Giveaway service. Andy Mulberry recently blogged about her experience, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

Many authors have a love/hate relationship with Amazon, so I understand if you do not want to participate.

old clown

But, if you are willing to give it a go, Amazon tells me my giveaway is now live and I should, “Share this link to let the world know.” I am quite sure the world has bigger fish to fry…

fish

but here it is:

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/7483c0f0946705bc

I appreciate any feedback you have about the entry process. If you’ve used this service, please feel free to share your experiences/opinions.

You are all winners in my book! Thank you!

Girl wearing 1st place medal with arms in the air

 


Okay, so I have been blogging for about a year now. But, most days, I  feel as clueless as when I began-still bumbling my way around this curious space.

old.jpeg

I’ve tried a few times to develop a weekly theme or topic. So far, I have not hit on one that has stuck.

stuck

One thing that has remained constant is the positive, inspiring community of bloggers I’ve come to know. Your talent, generosity, and openness is incredible.

than

 

So, with that in mind, each Thursday, I’ll share a favorite thought-provoking quote, and a thank-you to someone in our online community. Here are my “Thursday Thoughts and Thanks” for this week:

Thought:

quote-flying

Thanks:

My thank-you goes out to blogger Send Sunshine who always seems to find time to do just that.

My Thursday Thoughts and Thanks would be even better if you joined in the fun. Please feel free to share a favorite quote and/or tell us about a blogger who you feel grateful to know. Thank you!

 

 

 

 


To say the past year has been a whirlwind would be an understatement.

cat

I self-published my first children’s picture book around this time in 2014. Aside from my first year teaching, I have never worked so hard, or felt more inept. But, in both cases, I was determined to learn what I needed to know in order to be successful.

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

I set out to learn the best way to publish my book, but I gained much more than that. I started this blog, fumbled my way around Twitter and a few other social sites, and met a lot of truly wonderful people along the way.

Success is a relative term. And, for me, it has been a dichotomy. I have enjoyed many successful moments. But, for whatever reason, I still beat myself up about my shortcomings (not sure if that is an indie author thing or just an all-around author thing).

bully

They say success breeds success, and despite my attempts to sabotage my own, I’ve managed to publish a second children’s book. I was blessed to work with the same illustrator on what we both feel is our best work to date.

I’ll host the book launch party for my second book tomorrow. And, I’ll also celebrate the one-year anniversary of the book that started me on this wild and winding path.

To mark the event, I am offering both books for $.99 on Kindle from December 4-11.

I’d like to extend a sincere thank you to all of my online friends and colleagues. Being part of this community has definitely been one of the best aspects of becoming an author.

than

I wish each of you joy in the things you love to do. I’d love to hear about your experiences. Please feel free to leave a reply about your joyful moments.

Here are some of the moments that have brought me joy:

 

 

 


I have followed New York Media Works Kid Lit TV since I began the journey to publish my first children’s book. Their site is a wealth of information, inspiration, and support for the kid lit community. Imagine my delight when I was “picked” to be this month’s  Featured Member. I was interviewed by kid lit champion

http://kidlit.tv/2015/11/featured-member-michelle-eastman-pbpio/

pbpio-badge

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

 

 

 


As an indie author, people are not exactly beating down my door to interview me. So, when someone is kind enough to offer, I happily say yes!

Thanks to Sondra Rymer for the recent interview on The Children’s Writer’s Guild.

It was interesting to reflect on my own process as an author. I hope you find something helpful or inspiring in the mix. You can access the interview here http://www.childrenswritersguild.com/an-interview-with-author-michelle-eastman/

b and n me


Hello. I am a children’s author, and I recently released my second picture book. Although it is my second book, I am relatively new to blogging and publishing, so it is a challenge to solicit reviews. Friends and family will be “officially” introduced to my new book at the launch party on December 4. I value their input, but I’d also like to get reviews from people outside of my support circle.

If you are interested in reviewing my book on Amazon, Goodreads, or your blog, Please contact me via the comments or at dmeastman (at) msn (dot) com to receive a PDF review copy.

Here is a little more information about the book and author.

Dust Fairy Tales: Absolutely Aggie (Children’s Picture Book, ages 4-8)

Fairies, music, and dust! Oh my! Aggie is a little Dust Fairy with a big problem. She wants to join the fairy band, but they do not approve of her offbeat style. Aggie is determined to impress them, but that turns out to be harder than she imagined. Just when she thinks she will never find a way to fit in, Aggie discovers it might be more fun to stand out.

About the Author:

Michelle Eastman is the author of ‘Dust Fairy Tales: Absolutely Aggie’ as well as ‘The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tale’. Michelle’s books take a lighthearted approach to the compelling desire kids have to fit-in. The stories validate the need kids feel for acceptance, while imparting a gentle take-away message of the joy that can come from embracing one’s individuality. The lively, rhyming stanzas and vivid illustrations appeal to boys and girls alike.

Michelle began her career as an elementary teacher in the West Des Moines School District. At Iowa Public Television, she wrote educational content for teachers and students. Her work with children, and passion for picture books, inspired her to found the literacy initiative, Picture Book Pass it On (#PBPiO). When she’s not chasing dust bunnies, or her two cats, she likes to cuddle up with a good book and her son. Michelle lives with her husband and son, in Waukee, Iowa.

table

If you have any tips or advice for seeking reviews, or helpful resources, I would love to hear from you. I enjoy connecting with fellow authors. I’m on Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook. Thank you for your time.


The term, “fair” brings to mind celebrations, hustle and bustle, excitement, and fun (sometimes creepy clowns are involved).

old clown

For authors, a fair is the opportunity to mix and mingle with fellow writers, meet book lovers, and get your book into the hands of new readers.

fly

In our mid-western city, author fairs are few and far between. So, when I saw the opportunity to participate in one, I jumped at the chance.

rope

Ticket in hand, I began preparing for the big day. Coffee in hand, I tackled my to-do list. My must-have list includes: my books, book stands, business cards, a credit card reader, pens, a table cloth, and some cash to make change.

cat

My want-to-have list is much longer and mostly unnecessary (except, I am a children’s book author, so a gal’s gotta have something for the kiddos). This list includes freebies like: bookmarks, coloring sheets, and candy. Since I write books about fairies, I figured I’d throw in some plastic fairy bracelets, mini fairy dolls, and some bling for my table top (thank you Dollar Store).

yes free

And while I’m at it, why not order a 3 foot tall stand-up display of my main character?

big aggie

The big day finally arrived. I packed up my gear and headed to the fair. After several trips to the car and a lot of zhushing, I was ready. I anxiously waited for the crowd to file in…and waited…and waited.

table

The author fair got much less traffic than I expected. I sold a whopping total of 4 books that day. Although I met some really great people, I was feeling pretty defeated.  But, just as I was getting ready to pack it in, I ran into this guy.

bagpipe dude

Some would call this synchronicity. I am at a book fair, selling copies of my book featuring a bagpipe-playing dust fairy, and this guy is out in front of the venue playing the bagpipes. He was kind enough to pose for a picture, and he even bought a copy of my book.

I may have come away from this less-than-fair author fair only 4 books lighter, but this parting encounter brought the experience back into perspective. This man’s joy comes from sharing his music with others. I don’t imagine he measures his success in album sales. I write fun books for kids. People like my books, and that brings me joy. Selling books or not selling books should not get in the way of that.

And on a lighter note-It’s fall in Iowa, so I did NOT shave my legs for this!

legs

You are welcome to share or re-blog any of my posts. I enjoy getting to know you, so please feel free to leave a comment. Thank you.


My publishing journey has led me down some interesting paths. Along the way, I have met gracious, creative people like Brooke. It’s a pretty darn good feeling when someone likes something you’ve written enough to promote it. The fact that she happens to be a kid, and likes my kids’ book, makes it that much better!

Check out her Studio B channel on You Tube, and don’t forget to enter the Dust Bunnies book giveaway.


I don’t know how I got so lucky as to have Kevin Richter beside me through the production of two books, but I am so happy he’s along for the ride. Here is the cover reveal for our forthcoming children’s picture book.

Aggie_Cover_Front_r-1


I am delighted to be featured as the Author Spotlight on Fairy Tales Imagery blog this month. I talk about my writing process, the challenges of marketing, and what success means to me. Be sure to scroll down to enter Sondra’s featured giveaway.

Sondra Rymer is a talented visual artist and fairy tale fan. In addition to being incredibly creative, Sondra is also extremely generous. She actively pays it forward and back, by promoting and supporting her peers. If you enjoy whimsical, enchanted images, be sure to visit her site http://www.fairytalesimagery.com/

sond

girl


I have been blogging for nearly one year. In that short time, I have met some incredible people, many of whom are authors. We’ve shared laughs, frustrations, celebrations, and advice.

weird hat

I’d like to solicit some of that advice.

boy bird

I am currently self-publishing my second children’s picture book. I am happy to say the manuscript is finished, and the illustrator is making great progress with his sketches. So, I should be galloping a victory lap on my unicorn…

unicorn

BUT…I am stuck. What is holding me back? It’s the short blurb I have to slap on the back of this puppy to let readers know what my book is about. What’s the big deal? I wrote an entire book, and I can’t come up with a few sentences to sum it up? No, it seems I cannot…

getty

SO…I would be delighted to hear your opinions about the latest draft of my blurb. Any input is welcomed and appreciated. I also welcome your advice and tips for writing book blurbs. Thank you!

Thank you written in hands

Here is what I have after 12 pages of drafts:

Fairies, music, and dust! Oh my!

Messy house? It’s not your fault. The Dust Fairies are a community of quirky, mischievous creatures who delight in making messes while hidden from sight. And when the band strikes up the music, the dust really starts to fly.

When Aggie tries to join the fairy band, it doesn’t go as planned. Now, she is faced with a tough decision. Should she change who she is to fit in, or embrace who she is and stand out?

Thank you all for your comments and suggestions. I am blessed to be part of such a supportive group of bloggers. Here’s a revised “blurb” based on your feedback. I also added some of Kevin Richter’s latest sketches.

Fairies, music, and dust! Oh, my! Aggie is a little Dust Fairy with a big problem. She wants to join the fairy band, but they don’t approve of her offbeat style. Now, she’s faced with a tough decision. Should she change who she is to fit in or embrace who she is and stand out?

KevToon_Aggie_v2aggie runblowaggie worry


I can certainly brag about this guy!

kev

Kevin Richter is the talented illustrator of my very first children’s picture book, AND he is currently working on the second book in the Dust Fairy series.

Dust Fairy Tales: Absolutely Aggie should be ready for release this fall. If you are not familiar with Dust Fairies, they are the little sprites responsible for the dust, crumbs, and other debris we try so hard to remove from our homes. Yep, they come out while we sleep and hold crumb-spitting contests, sprinkle dust, and leave behind their dust bunnies. It’s true-I read it in a book!

Aggie would love nothing more than to join the fairy band and play music while the Dust Fairies frolic and play. But, she has a hard time fitting in with the more dainty, girlie, Dust Fairies. Will she ever be good enough? Can she fit in AND stand out? Oh, did I mention she plays the bagpipes? You can follow Aggie’s progress and all things Dust Fairy at https://www.facebook.com/michelleeastmanbooks

KevToon_Aggie_v2

Waiting for the illustrations is both torture and bliss-I am like a little kid at Christmastime. Thankfully, Kevin is kind enough to let me peek into his creative world before the book is finished. Here are a few of his whimsical designs.

whisperband blow fairy spit

Don’t be shy, leave a reply. What are you bragging about? I’d love to hear about your work.


My blogging has slowed to a trickle as of late. I won’t call it writer’s block, but I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired. As it tends to happen with me-just when I get stuck in a rut, someone happens along and gets the wheels turning again.

cog

I crossed paths with kid lit author Amy Chung when I was working to finish my first children’s book. She was beginning her publishing journey as well. Fast forward 9 months, and we recently re-connected and exchanged reviews of our finished books.

That exchange prompted me to start a weekly feature, “Off the Shelf Thursday”. My goal is to highlight a new children’s picture book (or new to me) each week.

This week I am sharing Amy’s book, Wishful Wedding.

WW Cover

Here is my review:

The rhyming text and colorful illustrations work together to share a little girl’s mixed emotions about her aunt’s wedding. Although she is happy for her aunt and excited to serve as her flower girl, she wishes her two fathers could declare their love at their own ceremony. Chung does a great job of exploring the topic of same-sex marriage from a child’s point of view. It’s a great book to share with children to spark conversation about the similarities and differences between our families and the universal nature of love.

You can find Amy’s books on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Wishful-Wedding-Pocketful-S-Chung-ebook/dp/B00YQKI156/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1435261112&sr=8-1&keywords=wishful+wedding

You can connect with Amy here:

 

Writing is a solitary vocation. I spend a lot of time alone, pondering and reflecting, constructing and connecting. Most recently I connected my life, as a writer, to a well-known poem by Robert Fulghum. http://www.robertfulghum.com/ In the poem, Fulghum reflects on his days in kindergarten and how those lessons prepared him for life.

kindergarten

As I read his words, I began to ponder how becoming an author has enriched my life. I may not have learned “All I really need to know”, but I am constructing my journey one keystroke and lesson at a time.

All I really need to know…I learned writing kids’ Books

Quote- Flying

Share everything-

Give back to your fellow writers. Share articles and resources. Share your failures; they matter too. Lift someone up; show him the way. Give your books away to kids in need. Give back to your community.

Play fair-

I have dues to pay, like everyone else. There are no short-cuts or secret formulas to getting your books published or noticed.

Don’t hit people-

over the head with book promotions. It’s a fine line we walk when we promote our books. When in doubt, less is ALWAYS more!

Put things back where you found them-

Being an organized writer leads to being a productive writer (took me a long time to accept this one). This rule also applies to cats sleeping on your lap while you write. If you must disturb them, return them to your lap immediately.

Clean up your own mess-

I am a better writer when I can see the top of my workspace (fought this one for years). Cats sitting on your workspace are exempt.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours-

Whenever you quote or reference someone else or his/her work, give him/her proper credit.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody-

For me, this pertains to my husband. He is often on the receiving end of my writer’s block crankiness and endures my need for isolation when the block gives way.

Wash your hands before you eat-

A good practice on those rare occasions when I pry myself from my WIP to eat.

Flush-

Sometimes I have to let go of an idea that is not working to create space for a new one.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you-

And they make for delicious refreshments at book signing events.

Live a balanced life-learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some-

Okay, I’m still working on that one.

Take a nap every afternoon-

My cats handle this one for me.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together-

I am blessed to go out into the kid lit world, holding hands with some of the best people I know. Winding our way through the streets of the publishing world; we stick together.

Be aware of wonder-

Without this, how would we create anything new?

Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup; The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup-they all die. So do we-

The wonderful thing is that, as writers, we can make these moments matter. And what we write can matter to someone in a profound way.

And remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned-the biggest word of all-LOOK-

My greatest joy, as a children’s author, is seeing my words reflected through another person’s eyes. In that book, for those few moments, we look at the world together.

dream

What has your writing journey taught you? I’d love to hear about it. Don’t be shy, leave a reply.


“Is it hard?’
“Not if you have the right attitudes. It’s having the right attitudes that’s hard.”
Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values

Is writing a children’s picture book hard? It depends on your attitude.

Are you up for the challenge of telling a great story? You get 32 pages and 500 words.

Can you capture a child’s interest, and get him vested in the story and the characters, right away? You get 32 pages and 500 words.

Is the conflict quickly defined and played out, while the anticipation mounts? You get 32 pages and 500 words.

Is the resolution a compromise or an absolute? Does the reader see it coming? Is it delicate, or deliberate? You get 32 pages and 500 words.

Building a picture book is hard. But, it is also an honor and a privilege to write for children. So far, I’ve built one picture book. And with a little Zen, there is a persistent, profound, certainty that I will build another one.

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

Writing a book is a lot of work (understatement of the century). But, self-publishing that sucker makes writing it look like a walk in the park. I was recently trying to explain the process to a good friend of mine. She and her husband are renovating an old Victorian home. As we were swapping “sweat-equity” stories, it dawned on me…the two endeavors are not that dissimilar. The only difference, I told her, is that self-publishing for the first time, is like building your own house, but with no experience, no blueprints, and no tools. Here are my top-ten reasons that self-publishing a book is like building a house:

  1. It always takes longer than you planned
  2. It always costs more than you planned
  3. It’s really exciting at first, then it begins to consume your entire life
  4. Agonizing over the simplest detail seems normal
  5. You wake up, at least once a night, and add one more thing your to-do list
  6. Everyone has an opinion on how it should be done
  7. People keep asking you, “So, when is it going to be finished?”
  8. No one truly “gets it” unless they’ve done it
  9. You vow to never do it again
  10. You eventually give up the notion that it is going to be absolutely perfect and enjoy the ride
  11. You forget about #9 and do it again!

 

Become-a-writer

I love hearing from you. Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments. Happy writing!



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